Yes, I know it’s a headline in the console war, but let’s be honest, if I had just written “Xbox is a bargain this holiday”, you would not have clicked through.
Xbox as a platform has a bit of a moment. While the start of the year was pretty barren in terms of big releases, somewhat magnified by the fact that everyone wanted shiny new games for their fancy new gene consoles, the summer and beyond has been a non-stop goodness.
In late July, Flight Simulator came to Xbox, giving Series X and S their first “Wow” exclusive. Of course, it also landed day one on the Game Pass.
Psychonauts 2, a true Game of the Year challenger, impressed big in late August. Xbox gamers could not claim exclusivity over this one as it also came to PlayStation platforms, but it was yet another excellent Game Pass day-1 title to enjoy.
In the month of October, Back 4 Blood arrived for Game Pass day one, which was a huge benefit to the service, which generally does not offer such large third-party AAA games the day you can purchase them.
Then the big dogs rolled into town. Forza Horizon 5, GTA San Andreas from the new enhanced GTA Trilogy and Halo Infinite hit the Xbox and Game Pass in November and December.
I’m not overestimating things by claiming that Forza Horizon 5 will be one of the top three games of the year. It’s an incredible game that feels like it’s reaching a new, larger audience than ever before.
GTA San Andreas is an excellent Game Pass offering, and Halo Infinite could well beat Horizon 5 as the biggest launch in the history of Xbox Game Studios. Did you play Halo Infinite beta? Halo is back, and potentially in a very big way.
Add them as Art of Rally, 12 Minutes, Artful Escape, Sable, Football Manager 2022 and Skyrim (with a free new generation update) since the summer, and it’s been a full six months for Xbox and Game Pass.
This does not mean that the PS5 has not had some good games this year. Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Death Loop and Kena: Bridge of Souls are all excellent, but Death Loop is asked to do a lot of this holiday heavy lifting that it simply cannot handle alone.
In an industry where everyone is always looking for the next new and exciting thing, the Xbox PlayStation has beaten this holiday, no doubt, and Game Pass makes the platform far more budget-friendly (though I would not go so far as to say cheap when even Series S costs £ 250 and Game Pass Ultimate is £ 11 a month before looking for deals).
Xbox has not yet fully fulfilled its promise of blockbuster AAA exclusives, which we take for granted on PlayStation, but it is getting there – although it may be a little scared of Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7 and God of War Ragnarok triple whammy is coming next year. Then there is Forspoken and Ghostwire: Tokyo in terms of well-known third-party exclusives.
Xbox should take full advantage of this Christmas. If Halo and Forza, plus a host of great Game Pass games, can not beat Sony’s non-existent holiday series, the Xbox is likely to remain in Sony’s shadow throughout this console generation.
Do you want to “jump in”, as marketing used to say? Tell us in the comments. Or tell me how I make a lot of mistakes and that the PS5 is great (I did not say that it was not).